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On Reading Obits

I work at a newspaper. In college, I was once told that in order to get a job at a newspaper, I would probably have to start out as an obituary writer.

I am happy to say that I managed to land a position not so closely associated with death. I am an online editor, but that does not separate me from the occasional association with the obituaries. Just yesterday, I had the duty of putting the obits online. The obits are basically composed of the name of the city or town the person is from, followed by their last name, first name, age, occasionally profession, day they died and a listing of where the funeral will be held.

Ada. Smith, Bob E., farmer., died on Friday. Services on Tuesday at First Baptist, Ada.

That one line that takes up one or two inches of newspaper print encapsulates someone’s entire life. That one line is the representation of years of laboring, loving and, in the end, dying. That one line will be what all the little old ladies who faithfully read the obits every morning will see. Most of the little old ladies will quickly skim over the name, not recognizing Bob E. Smith, while a few will shake their heads and say, “Oh, I went to elementary school with Bob,” or, “I used to buy Bob’s tomatoes at the farmer’s market. What a shame!”

In the end, I too will be a line of newspaper print. The coroner will send my death notice to the local newspaper, where the obits reporter will set up my death announcement in a little document listed in alphabetical order along with all the other deaths on that day. From there, a layout designer will fit me into one or two inches of newspaper print and send me on to the printers. I will be printed onto cheap newspaper sheets, distributed to thousands, overlooked by most and thrown away by most. My body will be in the grave.

In the end, my recognition will most likely be little in the eyes of this world. Even if I do something magnificent, it will amount to a few more inches of newspaper print; perhaps a television spot; perhaps a photo on a news web site.

My name may appear scarcely in newspapers upon my death or it may appear abundantly. Fortunately, my ultimate goal is not to gain the glory of the news outlets for which I may have toiled. My goal is to find my name written in another type of print: the Lamb’s Book of Life. When my obit is written in the world’s media outlets, will it also appear on the pages of eternity?

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I will approach the gates of heaven, and will I hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant?” Christ said many will come to Him, saying, “Lord, Lord,” but He will respond saying, “Depart from me, I never knew you!”

I pray that my life will be more than the desire to get to Heaven. May my life’s existence, my purpose, be found in Christ. When people read that one line of newspaper print describing who I was and where my funeral services will be held, may they think of the One I lived for.

… and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV).

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